Meeting Report

September 19, 2010

Richard Carrier, PhD

The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails

What is so rare as a Sunday in September, when we host a speaker whose subject is a challenging critique of religion? With a PowerPointŪ presentation, no less. Yet, on September 19, approximately twenty-five of us were treated to Dr. Richard Carrier’s rapid-fire, information-filled speech on this topic, dear to the heart of almost any humanist: The Christian Delusion.

Dr. Carrier began with the question, “Are Christians delusional?” Before one can address such a subject, of course one must define “delusion,” and he did, providing definitions both colloquial and psychiatric. Bottom line: a delusion is a false belief.

He then presented one of my favorite slides, in which he showed a gradient of delusional states, which I’ll summarize here:

Mildly Delusional

Majorly Delusional

Worrisome

Crazy

Batshit Insane

It’s obvious that Dr. Carrier presents his position with a sense of humor, isn’t it? The nub of the matter is, however, that there are different levels of commitment to belief systems, ranging from the relatively benign to the pernicious, where people burn others’ holy books or fly airplanes into buildings, and one has to take this into account when dealing with believers.

In my opinion, the most significant idea presented was The Outsider Test for Faith. This test can be summarized thus: You must apply the same skeptical criteria to your own faith as you do to all other faiths. If, for example, you feel that the Qur’an or Book of Mormon is not credible, why should you believe that the Bible is? If you apply this test and your belief system fares no better than others, then your belief system is no more likely to be valid than the others.

Talk about something to take away! I was so impressed that I bought one of Dr. Carrier’s books and began reading it the same evening.

For more information, please be sure to check out Richard Carrier’s Web site.

Report prepared by Roger Zabkie, Secretary


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